Southwestern Historical Quarterly
THE PROBLEM OF HANDS ON THE SPUR RANCH
W. C. HOLDEN
The Spur ranch of Texas, consisting originally of approximately
a half million acres, was located in Garza, Kent, Dickens, and
Crosby Counties about ninety miles north of Colorado City and an
equal distance south of Childress. The ranch was established in
1883 by the Espuela Land and Cattle Company of Fort Worth.
Two years later this company sold the ranch to an English syndi-
cate, the Espuela Land and Cattle Company, Limited, of London.
The English company operated the ranch until 1907 when it was
sold to the S. M. Swenson interests. From 1885 to 1907 the im-
mediate control of the ranch was under three resident managers,
S. W. Lomax who served from 1885 to 1889, Fred Horsbrugh,
1889 to 1904, and Henry Johnstone, 1904 to 1907. Among other
problems that the managers had constantly before them was the
matter of employing, controlling, directing, and discharging scores
of men necessary in carrying on the ranch routine.
Fiction has made the cowboy the most romantic part of the
cattle range and ranch. He may have been a courageous, dashing,
two-gun individual in other places, but truly not on the Spur
Ranch. No one thought of him as being "a type," or "a character,"
or anything at all unusual. It is doubtful if he ever thought of
himself as being anything extraordinary or heroic. Indeed, he was
quite ordinary. In all of the Spur records the author has failed
to find the word cowboy used so much as in a single instance. He
is unfailingly referred to by the lowly and uninteresting term hand.
The number of hands employed by the ranch varied from year to
year.1 The greatest number was employed in 1887 with an average
of 72 a month for the entire year. The next year the average
dropped to 67. In 1889 the average was 49. The marked de-
crease from 1887 to 1889 was due to two things. In the first
place, the initial task of fencing was over, and fewer men were
needed to handle the cattle in the inclosed pastures. In the second
place, the Fort Worth and Denver Railroad had been completed,
bringing cattle-shipping points much closer. The time a trail
herd spent on the road to a shipping point was now considerably
1Payrolls of the Spur Ranch.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 35, July 1931 - April, 1932. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101092/. Accessed May 2, 2016.